From the Artists...

Here are some end of project reflections from the teaching artists...

Steven Kenny: "The thing that amazed me about working with the students was how little
direction and encouragement they needed. Each of them eagerly dove into
each project, easily followed the instructions, and very often took the
assignment far beyond what was expected. That was wonderful to see!"

John Gascot: "Teaching my mixed media class to the Sheriff's Youth Ranch was fulfilling in many ways. The kids were more receptive about experimenting with alternative materials than I could have predicted. Their enthusiasm and excitement was contagious."

Elizabeth Barenis: "What surprised me was the children's courage to deviate from the teacher's example and create their own original version of the project. I always encourage students to make it their own, and the children of this class needed very little encouragement in that came naturally to them. And what an awesome thing to watch the projects evolve in unique and unexpected ways!"

Richard Seidel: "The class was very excited about the sketch, and watercolor class.  Last year, we passed out sketch books to the students.  I was amazed when they brought last year sketch books, to this years class,   and showed me what they had drawn .  I always explain that the sketch book is a place to go when your angry, unhappy, or bored.  You begin to draw, or write down your feelings, and things seem to get better. They actually listened, and followed through with my instructions. The art classes makes the students feel special.  A girl in the class, named Harmony, said she was not interested in doing art one Saturday.  I suggested we make a book. Eventually the frown on her face, turned upside down.   She became very involved in all of the following classes. I learned about her Family, and why she was staying at the Ranch. I truly think we are planting the seed, that will make some of these Children grow up and be fine artists.  This is a great program, that opens the doors to Children who probably would never visit a museum, or even have the opportunity to sit down and work on  a art project. "



Let's Do This Again

You know by now, that this is the third year The Young Artists of Florida program has taken place.  Hopefully, by now, you have also read about the purpose of these sessions. Essentially, we are doing our very best to provide art instruction to promote self expression and self confidence. 

We do want to share with you a story from last year- that inspired us to keep the project going...

The following is from Justin Crymes, one of the administrators at the Youth Ranch Villas...

"The Young Artist Program has been a powerful vehicle for change in our youth.  I can recall one rancher, Emily, who was going through a very difficult personal struggle while participating in the program.  It was so amazing to see her process her feelings through her art work, and her final piece was a clear message of hope for her future.  I cannot thank the Young Artists enough for their work with the children we serve at the Villa".

This is Emily with her work of art for the 2016 Young Artists of Florida Exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg.

This is Emily with her work of art for the 2016 Young Artists of Florida Exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg.

Do What Feels Right

Throughout this multi-month project, both students and cottage parents were encouraged to think about each session. We would do gallery walks at the end of class. This allowed us to take time to walk by each person's creation that day. We would share what we liked about the class and sometimes what might of surprised us.

When it came to choose the works of art for the exhibition, we asked the students to think about why they chose the work they did. They wrote their name, the title of the work, and why they chose the piece on a sheet of paper. This information would help the Museum make labels for the exhibition. 

In this photo, you will see two examples of some of our students responses to the assignment: "Feeling it was fun" and "Makes me feel good". When students have such positive memories of being part of this project, what more could we ask for? We are so grateful we had the opportunity to be a part of their artistic journey. 


Now on View

One of the important components of this project is the exhibition. The students essentially curated the show. We pulled out each work of art they created over the past several months and allowed them to select which of their works of art were to be installed. After selecting the work, they had to give it a title. We also asked them to think about why they selected the work (more on that in a future post). The Museum's Registrar, Curatorial Assistant, and Preparators all helped with the installation. 

We are so grateful to ARTicles Art Gallery and Custom Framing. They framed each of the works the students selected. The students will be reunited with their works of art when the show is deinstalled. 

The exhbition is currently on view through December 9th at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. The Museum is located at 255 Beach Drive NE. 

Your Life is a Book - Session 8

Artist Richard Seidel taught this session on observation. Richard shared a video of his work with the students. They learned that drawing from life can provide an endless source of inspiration. Where we travel, who we meet, and even how we see things help define who we are. 

Each student was given a sketchbook, a set of watercolors, and pens. They then learned how to fill their book with drawings of what surrounded them. Students began to draw each other, the projects that were on the table that day, and even some art supplies. Some students branched out and drew the images that had formed in their imaginations. 

Balloon Bowls- Session 7

Elizabeth Barenis taught this fun class on papier mache. The following is an excerpt from a blog post she created about this class...

"...I decided on a project that would demand their full attention, something where they could get really messy and divert their focus from whatever troubles they might be facing from being separated from their families. Thus, I chose paper mache. More specifically, we would make "balloon bowls."

When the students arrived, they were welcomed by a plastic-covered floor and tables lined with piles of newspapers next to aluminum pans filled with flour. Only a couple of the 24 students knew how the materials would be used. After watching a brief slideshow about paper mache, we got started..... Most of the children loved submerging their hands into the flour mixture, feeling the texture and coolness of it. They remarked on its smell, like that of pancakes. A couple of them were hesitant to touch the paste and "get their hands dirty," but eventually they relinquished.

When the balloon "bowls" were complete, I had smaller balloons available for students to paper mache and create ornaments. By the end of the class, everyone was having fun with the extra balloons - inflating them, popping them, and taking a few home for later. It felt like a party. It was fun, and that's the way art should be. That's the way life should be."

The text and photos are from Elizabeth Barenis blog

The text and photos are from Elizabeth Barenis blog

I Didn't Know That - Session 6

Laura James taught this session on using different materials to apply paint and change the way paint responds to the canvas. 

We had no idea how much fun it could be to put paint in small spray bottles to create interesting textures and colors on the canvas. We also used rubbing alcohol and observed its effects on the canvas and paint. The soft colors created by watering down the vibrant pigments recalled different images and emotions for each of the students and grown-ups in the class. 

lauras class 3.jpg

Super Hero Drawing Skills- Session 5

This session was taught by John Allison. He got us to think about skills. Super Hero skills. 

Tom Ris, the founder of the program described the session this way "John Allison harnessed the power of the universe for his super hero class! We all had fun learning to draw our own version of a super hero! I actually drew something this time. However, the super powers didn't make much sense to others. Guess spaghetti shooting belly buttons aren't truly needed." 

This was a great way to learn about proportion and harness our creativity. Who knows, maybe somewhere, someday, the world just might need a hero that can shoot spaghetti out of their belly button. 

We are starting to notice the house parents and other volunteers are really starting to feel comfortable sharing their creative spirit with the students.  

Working with a Theme- Session 4

Derek Donnelly was our teaching artist for this session on working with a theme. Each year, the Youth Ranch has a fishing tournament to help raise awareness and funds for the incredible work they do to help live their mission. This year, they wanted to use artwork created by students in the Young Artists of Florida program as part of their trophies. We were given the theme of aquatic life. Derek helped the students think through the theme. What are some images, colors, and shapes that come to mind when you think about the ocean? 

It was an important lesson to learn that when we are given the same guidelines and same subject, there can be a variety of "right answers". One house parent commented that this paralleled house rules. He shared that we all have the same rules, but we can understand how each of us can interpret them differently- in a way that still works for the household. 

Exquisite Corpse- Session 3

Steven Kenny shared his passion for surrealism in this exciting class. Steven shared a PowerPoint presentation that included images of combined creatures from antiquity to present day. Imagine seeing images of everything from centaurs to mermaids. To get ready for our works of art, he asked us what our favorite animals were. Then, he got us to start imagining what they might look like combined with someone else's favorite. We had a blast. 

Expressive Color: Day 2

Today's teaching artist was Saori Murphy. She got us off to an expressive start with an awesome creative ice-breaker. Everyone, even the shy ones, stood in a circle. We each took turns saying our name and then used our entire bodies to make an expressive movement about how we were feeling. But, wait there's more... EVERYONE (including shy grown-ups) in the circle had to mimic the movement. Picture kids waving their arms in the air and jumping to show excitement- and then a room full of kids and grown-ups mirroring those movements. Fun, lots of fun, and we were ready to get painting!

Saori taught us how to mix colors on the canvas. She emphasized movement as we mixed the colors. We used hair dryers to help this first step dry. The second step was to use black paint to create silhouettes or "windows" either to block out the parts we didn't like or highlight the parts that intrigued us. At the end, we all did a gallery walk around the room and checked out our work. 

saori class.JPG

Getting to Know You- Day 1


At the Museum we are all getting ready to launch our third year of working with the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches (FSYR). We were honored when local arts supporter, Tom Ris, reached out to us about an idea of bringing the kids from FSYR together with local and internationally known artists. Day 1 of this program brings everyone together- teaching artists with the young artists (the youth and house parents). It's the day we explore the Museum looking for inspiration and learning to feel at home in a new environment. Each of the teaching artists shares when they got their start making art, why they love creating art, and what they will teach in their class. Each of the young artists shares what grade they are in and what type of art they like to make. 

This is the day that sets the foundation of our program: A multi-month journey that will help students discover, refine, and develop their own artistic vision resulting in an exhibition and reception at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. 


The Museum of Fine Arts in partnership with Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches (FSYR) and the Public Art Project will provide artist-led instruction for at-risk youth from the FSYR residential program between June and October culminating in an exhibition and
reception for 35 boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 16.

Children admitted through intake and currently in the care of FSYR child and family services have the unique opportunity to work with local and internationally recognized visual artists to improve self-esteem, broaden their scope of artistic expression, and
build skills of collaboration. Students and teaching artists work together to create an overarching theme for the course of the 14-week project.

Each meeting includes a visit to an arts organization in Pinellas County. The majority of the visits will be at the Museum of Fine Arts where students and artists will begin with visits throughout the galleries to explore art from world cultures and across 4500 years, then move to the Museum’s classroom to learn through hands-on activities a variety of artistic techniques.

Each activity will provide the foundation skills needed to create a work of art that will be displayed as part of a group exhibition in November. The exhibition will include an
opening reception in which each student will have the opportunity to speak about the program and/or their work of art.

The small ratio of student to teaching artist promises much needed personalized attention. The artists serve not only as instructors but as facilitators to help students express their creative ideas that define and value who they are as people. Anna Glenn, Curator of Public Programs at the Museum, works with Derek Donnelly and Tom Ris as lead artist coordinators, and Wayne Witczak from FSYR to develop and implement this program. Education has been central to the Museum's mission for more than 50 years, and to partner with artists and this important family service organization allows art to nurture these underserved children.